We have an election happening in the UK. In the past such things have often been of little interest to me. The town where I grew up, and the town where I lived until recently, were both in constituencies where the the Tories could have put up a corpse and still got over 50% of the vote. Ah well, at least I wasn’t in the Bath & North East Somerset constituency, where they did put up a corpse who kept getting elected. However, Rees-Mogg is one of many Tories too chicken the contest the election this time because he knows he’ll lose. That’s not the case for Trowbridge, where the incumbent Tory is still confident of winning.

These days, things are very different. To start with, my local constituency is known to be a hot bed of Plaid Cymru supporters. Secondly, it is one of the constituencies that the Tories gerrymandered. They have stuck us in with Carmarthen which has traditionally been solidly Tory. And with Labour on the rise across the country, people were initially predicting a three-way fight.

Earlier this week some friends and I headed into Carmarthen to see a hustings. It was being held at SERO, a community environment centre, and was therefore likely to attract a more progressive audience. Of the 8 candidates, only 4 turned up. The far-right (Reform) and far-left (Workers Party) candidates did not respond to the invitation to participate. The Green, very sadly, was sick and unable to attend. There was a place set for the Tory, but he didn’t show. It looks like he has given up. So maybe it is only a two-way race.

Ours is one of the few seats in the country to have a Women’s Equality Party candidate. I suspect that is because the incumbent for my town’s old seat was kicked out of Plaid when he was arrested for beating his wife, though he kept his seat in Parliament. However, he decided not to run, which left my new pal, Nancy Cole, with much less to do. It was her first time as a candidate, and with the election having been called in a rush she had no time to get any training. In view of that, she did very well, but I don’t expect her to retain her deposit. On the plus side, both the Labour and Plaid candidates supported most of her positions. Getting other parties to support their policies is one of main purposes of WEP.

The LibDem candidate, Nick Beckett, was the only man among the four candidates. He’s a local councillor, clearly an experienced politician, and he spoke very well. Sadly he has no chance.

The Labour candidate, Martha O’Neil, is very personable. She was born here, speaks good Welsh, and clearly knows the area despite now being part of the Westminster set. She’s young, very smart (won a scholarship to Cambridge), has worked for an animal rights charity, and knows a lot about IT (a skill sadly lacking in Westminster). She could win.

That leaves Plaid Cymru. Their candidate, Ann Davies, is also an experienced local councillor. She owns a small farm near Carmarthen. What I’d seen of her campaign before the hustings was all about being anti building new transmission links to connect renewable generation to the grid. Farmers have a reputation of being very conservative around here, so I was a bit worried.

Thankfully Ann was very different in person. She, along with Nick and Martha, had clearly researched options for getting more renewables online without building pylons through local beauty spots. She was well aware of the culpability of farmers in polluting rivers, and knew something had to be done. Despite being quite a bit older than Martha, she was equally vociferous in supporting the women’s rights issues raised by Nancy. Being a Plaid candidate, she was able to talk about advocating for Wales, whereas Martha, if elected, would be subject to the whims of the very English Labour establishment. And she was the only candidate to mention LGBTQ+ rights, unprompted at that.

To date no one has come to my door canvassing. I’ve had one leaflet from Labour and two from Plaid. The Tories sent a questionnaire asking about my political views, which seemed to be aimed at getting a list of people to be sent to internment camps should they actually win.

Given that it seems that kicking out the Tory is not going to be an issue here, we are more free to vote our conscience. Some of my friends will vote Green regardless. Personally I’d like to vote for Nancy, but I’m also very invested in the Plaid Cymru v Labour contest, because the thought of a government led by Kier Starmer with a massive majority fills me with terror.

Most people in the UK will be better off under Labour. There’s little doubt about that. A few groups of people will not be. That includes trans people. Starmer has been very clear that he supports all of the anti-trans policies put forward by the Tories. In his view, trans women are not women, even if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and he has promised to ensure that people like me are kept out of “women only spaces”. That means hospital wards, changing rooms, toilets, rape crisis centres and so on.

The hospital thing is interesting because NHS Wales is a separate organisation from NHS England. But this is probably one of the points where we will discover that Starmer does not believe in devolution. I’ll just have to hope that I don’t need a hospital stay any time soon.

Toilets and changing rooms are a different matter. There’s a case before the UK Supreme Court at the moment that will probably end up with a ruling that it is legal to exclude trans women from “women only spaces”, even if they have a GRC. That won’t be enough for the transphobes. What they want, and what Starmer seems prepared to give them, is to change the law so that it is a crime to allow a trans woman to use a “woman only space”.

This will put the onus on service providers–hotels, pubs, gyms, shops and so on–to enforce the law. They will end up getting lots of false positives, causing endless trouble for cis women who are not sufficiently feminine-looking. But they will, very reasonably, claim that the Gender Recognition Act is an obstacle to their upholding the law. I have government ID (passport and driving licence) that say very clearly that I am female. The government would have to demand that I surrender those so that I can’t use them to pee illegally. As I have no desire to have government ID that outs me as trans to anyone I have to show it to, that would be a major inconvenience.

As far as other constituencies go, I would still advocate voting Labour if the only alternative is the Tories. I’d probably be voting Labour if I was still in Trowbridge. But if, like me, you have the option to get rid of a Tory without giving the seat to Labour (or Reform), I hope you will do so. The country needs an opposition.

Friends in Bristol, please vote for Carla, she’s great.

Legal Shenanagins

One of the things that has protected trans rights in the UK over the past couple of years is that the Tories are too busy, and too cowardly, to actually repeal the Gender Recognition Act, even though many of their MPs very much want to get that done. The anti-trans lobby is unhappy about this, and is therefore taking matters into its own hands by taking legal action. Very soon, their case will reach the Supreme Court. Should they win, the consequences for trans people in the UK (and equality law more generally) will be catastrophic.

The Gender Recognition Act says, unambiguously:

Where a full gender recognition certificate is issued to a person, the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender (so that, if the acquired gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man and, if it is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman).

However, as I understand it, the argument that will be put before the Supreme Court is that allowing a trans woman to be treated as a woman is, de facto, discrimination against cisgender women, and therefore illegal under the Equality Act. As the Equality Act is a more recent piece of legislation, its provisions should supercede those of the GRA.

Hopefully it is obvious that, should this claim succeed, it will open the doors to equivalent claims such as, “letting Black people into my whites-only pub is discrimination against white people,” and “building a wheelchair ramp is discrimination against able-bodied people.” Thankfully such claims are less likely to pass the Supreme Court.

But the chances of this getting through are very high. And if it does, not only will the GRA be rendered useless, it will create a climate of fear in businesses all around the country. Because it will be possible for a business (or school, local authority, etc.) to be sued for discrimination if they inadvertently allow a trans woman to be treated as a woman. This will lead to a lot of proactive bans being issued at places like public toilets, gyms, clothing stores and so on. Most of the people caught by this will be gender-nonconforming cisgender women, because despite what the anti-trans lobby claims, they can’t always tell, and neither can anyone else.

I say the chances of it getting through are high, because at the moment no trans people or allies will be allowed to give evidence. The anti-trans lobby is being bankrolled by She Who Must Not Be Named (to the tune of £70,000). In contrast, a crowdfunder by The Good Law Project to allow them to intervene in the case stands at just over £10,000. Britain’s only senior trans judge has asked for leave to intervene on the case, but that request may be denied.

My guess is that both Sunak and Starmer will be having messages sent to the Supreme Court judges encouraging them to find in favour of the case, because both main political parties would be delighted if the GRA could be made to vanish without them having to do anything. And of course the judges know that they will be pilloried in the media if they don’t find in favour of the case.

It would not surprise me if, by the end of this year, the UK had become one of the most transphobic countries in the world (rather than just one with the most transphobic media in the world).

Brian Stableford

As I have probably said before, I am useless at obituaries. When I need to write one, one coping mechanism is to wait and see what others have said. But I can’t put this off any longer.

Most of the obituaries of Brian Stableford focus on his significant output of science fiction and fantasy novels. I only got to know him at the tail end of his career, but in that time he produced some amazing work. See this review on Emerald City for an example of what he was up to around the turn of the millennium.

Some people have also focused on debt that they owe Brian as a person. Kim Newman commented on social media that Brian’s SF vampire novel, Empire of Fear, was very important to him. Farah Mendlesohn, writing on the BSFA website, had a more personal connection. And I have one too. Brian was very kind to me when I was going back and for the California on a regular basis, putting me up for the night at his home in Reading to save me a hotel night at Heathrow. On one memorable visit I was up half the night because I could not stop reading an amazing new book called Perdido Street Station.

But the thing I really wanted to mention was alluded to briefly in the Locus obituary. They say that Brian produced, “translations of hundreds of French works”. Yes, hundreds. Let that sink in. Here you can find the eligibility list for the final year of the SF&F Translation Awards. There are over 40 novels by Brian on it, and a whole lot of short stories too. Most people would be hard pressed to read 40 novels in a year. Brian could translate as many in that time. And, I happen to know, when his eyesight was failing.

We will not see his like again.

Public Statement re the Hugos

As questions have been raised on File770 regarding my involvement in the Chengdu Hugo Award disaster, I am making a public statement.

1. I was not a member of the committee of the Chengdu Worldcon, and was not involved with the convention other than as an ordinary member of WSFS who did not attend the event.

2. I was not involved in any way with the Administration of the Hugo Awards for Chengdu.

3. As a member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee it was my duty to ensure that the results of the Hugo Award voting process were posted to the official website promptly and accurately, as they were supplied to us by each year’s Worldcon, including those from Chengdu. We had no authority to comment on or change those results in any way.

4. I am not, nor ever have been, a member of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee (MPC).

5. I am not, nor ever have been, a Director of Worldcon Intellectual Property (WIP), and have no financial stake in that organisation. WIP was created from the corporation that ran the SF&F Translation Awards (of which I was a Director), but no directorships carried over from the one organisation to the other, save for Kevin Standlee who is a Director of WIP because of his membership of the MPC.

6. I resigned from the Hugo Award Marketing Committee, primarily because I no longer wish to be held responsible for (including being subject to legal and reputational risk for) the actions of organisations of which I am not a member and over which I have no influence.

7. Having seen legal advice on the subject, I am confident that the contracts I issued from Wizard’s Tower Press are structured in such a way that no one suing me, either individually or as an officer of WSFS, will be able to obtain the rights to any of the works published by Wizard’s Tower.

Miracles of Ancient Science

A couple of weeks back I was doing some work in the house. I was kneeling down, and as I went to push myself upright I felt something go in my left knee. That’s not entirely unusual. I’ve had knee problems before. I figured it was a sprain and if I took reasonable care of it then it would heal in time.

Healing did not happen. There wasn’t any pain most of the time, but the knee was badly swollen and despite lots of cold treatement did not improve. I had it heavily strapped up, and was walking with a cane.

After a couple of weeks I messaged my GP because I was worried there might be something seriously wrong. I got a message back saying that they were overwhelmed and, unless it was an emergency, I’d have to wait. There’s an entirely separate rant to be had about what the Tories have done to the NHS, and what Labour will contine to do because lots of their MPs are also being heavily sponsored by American healthcare companies.

However, this is a rugby town. If there is one thing we are not short of, it is physiotherapists. I found one online and gave him a call. Today I had an appointment.

The good news is that the physio doesn’t think that there is anything seriously wrong. My knee just needs a lot of time to heal. Many weeks. But he did suggest that could speed things up with a bit of accupuncture.

Well, I thought, it was worth a try. And it would be a new experience. So I sat there on his treatment couch for half an hour with needles in my knee and ankle. At the end of the treatment I could walk without either knee brace or cane. I still limp, and am going back next week for more treatment, but I am seriously impressed,

So if anyone asks you if accupuncture works, you can tell them that you know someone for whom it most definitely did.

Dear British Museum

I have had a Friends membership for several years now and have enjoyed many of your exhibitions. I have a keen interest in ancient history and am passionate about discovering and preserving knowledge about the past.

However, I am also involved in the publishing industry and have put considerable effort into promoting the work done by translators. There is much good work out there in modern fiction that is inaccessible to English-speaking readers without their help. The same is of course true of the ancient world, because no one wrote in English until comparatively recently in the history of language.

I was therefore deeply distressed at your shabby treatment of Yilin Wang in putting together the “China’s Hidden Century” exhibition. Translators should be acknowledged, and they should be paid fairly for their work.

I have given you some time to make things right, but all I have seen from you is a press release that is one of the worst examples of a corporate non-excuse I have ever seen. As someone who has been involved in diversity training, I’m astonished that a high profile organisation such as yours could be so bad at this.

Consequently I am resigning my membership of the British Museum Friends. I have cancelled my direct debit, and the money I would have paid for my next renewal has been donated to Ms. Wang’s crowdfunder.

Yours, deeply disappointed,

Cheryl Morgan

Two Requests

I have a couple of requests from friends that I’d like to bring to your attention.

The first is from Alistair Simms of Books on the Hill. As you may know, Alistair has made quite a splash by publishing a series of books that are dyslexic-friendly. As a result, he has been nominated for a couple of awards. If you’d like to vote for him, the ballot is here. The two awards he is up for are the Community Shining Star Award (20+) and the Entrepreneur Awards (18+).

The other is from Jo Hall. One of the farm dogs is very ill and needs some expensive tests before she can have treatment. You can donate at Jo’s Ko-Fi page.

Health Update

Still sick, still testing positive for COVID. Not the best way to spend a birthday, but at least I am able to have a fairly quiet day, which I very much need.

Looking forward, a few things are becoming obvious.

Firstly, attending any mass event such as a convention is going to require accepting a very high likelihood of contracting COVID. People have given up taking precautions, we have very little reliable public data, it is hard to protect yourself if you go.

Having said that, COVID no longer seems deadly. I’ve not had any difficulty breathing. My senses of taste and smell have been unaffected. Judging from the puzzle games I play regularly, I don’t seem to have suffered any congnitive impairment. Obviously things might be different if I had one of any number of high risk conditions, but I’m lucky.

But, and this is a big but, if you are going to risk getting COVID, you have to allow for at least two weeks, possibly three, of recovery time, and that creates scheduling issues.

Clearly my plan to go to LuxCon immediately after Eastercon was a recipe for disaster. I might make it to HistFest at the end of April, but I’m not certain.

May is just the Tolkien lecture, and there’s plenty of time to recover before Eurocon. I was going to see a couple of talks at Hay at the end of the month, but I doubt that I’ll have a new car by then.

Finncon and Pemmi-Con being close together is another potential disaster. I trust the Finns to run a safe con, but I’d be travelling through Heathrow to get there and that’s likely to be an infection hot-spot.

FantasyCon and BristolCon are sufficiently far apart to both be possible. But if I have no car I can’t bring books to sell, and that reduces the attraction of going.

All of which, I guess, will be good for my carbon footprint.

Health Update

Thus far I seem to have been very lucky. Least ways, I am much less ill than Juliet is reporting being. Of course that could all change. This is a new experience for me.

I’m not going to waste tests until the obvious flu-like symptoms go away. In any case, the NHS guidelines are to isolate for 6 days from a first positive test, so I’m isolating. Tesco delivered some groceries today.

There are now over 70 reported cases of COVID from people who were at Eastercon. I suspect that the true number is much higher. In contrast, last year’s Worldcon, which was a much larger event, had 64 cases. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this, which I will get to when I do my con report, but I don’t think I’m the only person seriously reconsidering in-person attendance at future Eastercons. Especially when this one did hybrid so well.

Life Happens

Well, yesterday was a bit shit. It was all going fine until I got to the turnoff for Cardiff Gate services (approximately two thirds of the way home and time for a rest). The short version is that in avoiding an idiot who thought he could treat a roundabout as a dual carriageway, I hit a traffic island. I’m fine, save for a torn nail. No one else was involved. But the car is probably a write-off.

The RAC got me home eventually, though they were very busy so I spent a few hours sat in the car reading, which was rather cold. This being Wales, several people dropped by to see if I was OK and needed anything.

There’s not a lot I can do about it all right now as I am stuck at home until the COVID passes. Thankfully I am well enough to be getting on with work, which takes my mind off things. But long term I am starting to question the utility of selling books at conventions. I’m not going to sell enough to pay for the trip. If it is an Eastercon these days, getting COVID seems inevitable. And it is a whole lot of effort in terms of driving, carting books around and so on. BristolCon might be an exception, but I need to decide whether getting a new car is a necessary thing to do.

Government by Ideology

Social media this week is full of discussion of a letter written by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to the Minister for Women & Equalities, Kemi Badenoch. For those of you unfamiliar with UK politics, one of the things that the current Tory government has done is fill “equalities” posts with people directly opposed to equality. Badenoch is an Evangelical Christian and Climate Change Sceptic. The Board of the EHRC has been filled with people who are openly transphobic. Nonsense is to be expected.

The first thing worth noting is that this letter has no legal force. Neither has there (yet) been any move to act on it. However, both Sunak and Starmer have muttered openly about “safeguarding woman’s rights”, which is a code pharse for removing the rights of trans people. If you feel minded to do so, and are a UK citizen, there is an old petition here that is suddenly getting a lot of traction and is worth signing. Sending a warning shot across the bows of Westminster is often quite effective.

Should they decide to move forward with this, the government will spin it as not removing any trans rights, but rather protecting the rights of women. The effect will be very different. The letter proposes amending the Equality Act to make it “clear” that “sex” means “biological sex” (whatever that means). The stated purpose of this will be to make it possible for any “single-sex” service to exclude anyone not of the correct “biological sex”. However, it has long been a claim of the anti-trans movement that allowing a trans woman into a supposed woman-only space is discrimination on the grounds of sex. If this change is made, we can expect to see a wave of prosecutions under the Equality Act where services have treated a trans woman as a woman, and are being sued for discrimination as a result. This will affect spaces such as toilets, changing rooms and sports clubs as well as rape crisis and domestic violence centres. Bizarrely the letter also references book clubs as an example of the sort of place that needs to be sex segregated.

Note that these new regulations are intended to apply to all trans people, regardless of their medical and current legal status. Somone like myself, who has been through a full surgical gender reassignment process and has a Gender Recognition Certificate, would still be regarded as “biologically male” under these proposals.

To government will claim that trans people can still change their gender using the Gender Recognition Act. However, because sex will have been defined as meaning biological sex, that change of gender will have no effect in law. The government will also claim that trans people are still protected by the Equality Act. They will be correct in saying that a company can still not fire someone for being trans, but that company will be legally obliged to treat trans employees as persons of their “biological sex”. It would not surprise me to see law suits complaining that allowing a trans woman to use female pronouns at work amounted to discrimination against cis women.

The letter talks airily about checks and balances, and about how these changes will be better for some and worse for others. Significantly it talks about trans women losing rights, and trans men gaining rights. But the rights that trans men would gain would be rights to be treated as women, which is the last thing that most trans men I know want. This is entirely in keeping with the anti-trans belief that trans men do not exist, and anyone claiming to be one is an innocent lesbian who has been duped by the Evil Trans Lobby.

Let’s now think about how this would work in practice. The anti-trans movement likes to claim that they can “always tell” who is trans, but they definitely cannot. Neither can anyone who runs a service that includes toilets or changing rooms. The only way that companies will be able to protect themselves is by requiring ID. There will be even more harassment of women whose appearance is not gender-conforming. And the government will have to revoke the existing passports and driving licences of trans people, issuing new ones with the sex marker being that they were assigned at birth. Goodness only knows how they will deal with foreign visitors who are trans.

There’s also this question of “biological sex”. What does it mean? The government probably thinks that’s just the sex you were assigned at birth. But the anti-trans lobby has been insistent that biological checks are necessary. For example, they insist that Caster Semenya is a “man”, despite her having been assigned female at birth and having lived all her life as a woman. Apparently she has higher than average levels of testosterone and that’s sufficient to disqualify her from womanhood.

The trouble is that we don’t routinely test for chromosomes or testosterone levels. No one has any idea how many women out there have a Y chromosome and androgen insensitivity. Given that there has been at least one well-documented case of a woman with a Y chromosome who gave birth to a healthy child, there’s no way we can know without testing. So what happens in the future if a woman has some routine checks by a doctor and it turns out she has a Y chromosome? Will she be legally required to live as a man from then on?

Given that the anti-trans lobby is very keen on genital surgery for intersex children who have ambiguous genitalia, this would not surprise me.

So that’s the world that these proposed changes would usher in. And all on the basis that a small number of fanatics have decided that they don’t want to live in a world that also contains trans people.

Cyborg R I

I spent most of today in Swansea. I got a bit of shopping done, including picking up a copy of the new Kate Heartfield book, The Valkyrie. But the main reason for going was to pick up a set of hearing aids. I can still hear fairly well most of the time, but if I need to pick out speech from a lot of background noise — for example if I am in a pub or a noisy restaurant — then I’m useless. Conventions are another problem location, especially somewhere like the dealers’ room. So if I want to get through Eastercon without seeming very rude, I need help.

I am utterly amazed at what a difference the hearing aids make. They cost an eye-watering amount of money, but the science involved is phenomenal. This evening I managed to watch the latest episode of Picard without needing headphones, which is a huge improvement. I will be interested to see what sort of differnece they make over the coming weeks when I have a lot of travel happening.

War With Scotland

Back when I was in school we learned all sorts of strange stuff in history. One of the things that caused much mirth in the class was the fact that there was a major war between Britain and Spain called The War of Jenkins’ Ear. It was a dispute over the American colonies. In 1731 a British ship called the Rebecca, captained by one Robert Jenkins, was boarded by Spanish coastguards off the coast of Florida (then Spanish territory). Captain Jenkins was accused of smuggling, and his left ear was cut off as a warning to other British sailors. Eight years later, Parliament used this incident as a pretext to declare a war that was fought mainly in the Caribbean.

Now we have something even sillier. The Westminster government has precipitated a major constiutional crisis over the issue of Scottish devolution, and their pretext for doing so is access to women’s toilets. Perhaps it will be called the War of Ladies’ Loos.

As you are probably aware, the Scottish parliament has passed a law simplifying the process of legal gender recognition in Scotland. What they have done is by no means unusual. Many countries around the world have already passed similar legislation. Ireland did it in 2015, and none of the terrible things that anti-trans camapigners have predicted for Scotland have come to pass there. But Westminster has chosen to make this issue one over which they will activate their nuclear option of a Section 35 Order. This is a part of the Scottish Devolution Act which allows Westminster to strike down any law passed by Holyrood if that law is deemed a signifcant danger to the Union (i.e., the political union of the component countries of the UK).

Yes, you read that right. The question as to where I am allowed to pee is so important as to pose a significant danger to the Union.

Westminister had earlier threated to simply refuse to recognise any Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) issued by Scotland under the new law. It was pointed out to them that they already recognise certificates issued by many foreign countries under similar legislation. Their reaction to this was to say that they would withdraw recognition of GRCs issued by any country whose procedures they deemed to be insufficiently rigorous. This would include Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. Practically speaking it would also include Australia, Canada, Mexico and the USA, where such legislation is devolved to state legislatures and it may be difficult to discern from someone’s ID where their GRC was issued.

The fact that Australia, Canada, the USA and Mexico all have different regulations for legal gender recognition in different parts of their country, without any apparent difficulty, has apparently not yet penetrated the thick skulls in Westminster.

The justification for triggering Section 35 is also so flimsy as to be practically transparent. Westminster claims that the Scottish law will negatively impact the UK’s Equality Act by making it too easy for someone to obtain a GRC. However, the protections afforded to trans people under the Equality Act are independent of whether we have a GRC or not. You acquire the Protected Characteristic of Gender Transition simply by declaring publicly that you are undergoing such a process. That is, you aquire it by self-identification, in a manner much less robust than the Scottish law which requires a Statutory Declaration, with heavy penalties should you make such a declaration fraudulently.

It is also worth noting that the entire process of medical gender transition is predicated on self-identification. Once you have been accepted as a patient at a gender clinic you are required to begin living full-time in your desired gender. To facilitiate this the doctors will give you letters allowing you to change ID such as your driving licence and passport to match your new gender. A Gender Recognition Certificate only affects your birth certificate, which is explicitly not acceptable as a form of ID.

In other words, the whole thing is a storm in a teacup into which Westminster has been backed by the combined efforts of the right wing media, the religious right elements within the Conservative Party, and probably substantial donations from a certain wealthy author.

Interestingly, the Scottish law was backed by the Scottish Labour Party. The Welsh Government, which is a Labour government, has expressed support for the Scottish law. But the English Labour Party, or at least its leader, has expressed support for the Westminster line.

Goodness knows where this will end, but it appears that we are in for another year of Interesting Times in UK politics.

Gone Bananas – Day 6

Today was the last day of the GoBananas challange. I’m pleased to say that I reached my target of raising £350 for One25, but they can always do with more and the donation page will remain open for a few days if you are so inclined.

Here’s today’s menu.

Brunch – French Toast

One of the things I love about Canada is getting breakfast at Eggspectation. Here’s my version of their French Toast. Spread cream cheese on one side of your brioche. Make a sandwich with chopped strawberries and banana, with the cheese outside. Dip the sandwich into a mix of egg, cream, vanilla & cinnamon. Fry in butter. Top with remaining fruit, walnuts, whipped cream, maple syrup. It is fantastically yummy.

Smoothie – Banana & Blueberry

Banana, frozen blueberries, coconut milk, and surprisingly a little cocoa powder. Not sure why the cocoa is there, or whether it has any benefit. Lovely colour though.

Dinner – Nachos with Banana Guacamole

Somewhat to my surprise, avocado and banana go very well together. Also this was an excuse to end the challenge with something nice and spicy. Basically just substitute ripe banana for half of the avocado in your guacamole recipe. Enjoy, and thank you for staying with me though this.

Gone Bananas – Day 5

Almost there now. Just one day to go.

I’m currently up to 79% of my target for the One25 fundraiser. Hopefully I can make it to 100% by 5:00pm tomorrow. You can help.

Breakfast – Pancakes Revisited

This is a more traditional pancake dish: just topped with banana, caramel and cream. Why not maple syrup, I hear you ask? Well partly as I have a lot of caramel to use up after making the banoffee pie, and partly because I am saving the best to last. Tomorrow we pull out all the stops.

Smoothie – Banana & Orange Revisited

As I stuffed up the breakfast smoothie yesterday I decided to get an orange and try again. It didn’t change the taste much, and it definitely doesn’t produce the bright yellow colour in the recipe book. I suspect yellow food colouring.

Lunch – Bread Machine Banana Bread & Sweet Plantain Chips

Having done banana bread in my cake maker, I decided to try doing it in the bread machine instead. I found a recipe online that was supposedly for my make of machine. Reader, it did not work. I ended up with a crust full of liquid banana mash. Clearly an issue with the balance of ingredients. Still, can’t win ‘em all. I have plenty of banana-based food I can be eating up for lunch.

That included the sweet variety of the plantain chips. No salted, obviously, and actually sweet. Unusual. Maybe needs chili.

Smoothie – Banana & Cucumber

Cucumbers are just water in a green coat, right? Well maybe not. This smoothie has banana, cucumber, pineapple and lime, plus ice. It is the pineapple and cucumber tastes that are the most obvious. Surprisingly delicious, and green.

Dinner – Banana Peel Curry

It would be wrong to do this challenge without using a recipe by Nigella, and to my delight the Domestic Goddess came through spectacularly. Yes, you can eat banana peel. The recipe is in the Cook, Eat Repeat book. It uses cauliflower for bulk, and like all curries the paste makes a huge difference.

Verdict: absolutely amazing. Best meal I have cooked all week.

Banana Beer

Is there such a thing as banana beer? Yes! You can find it in Asda. It is nothing particularly spectacular as far as beer goes, but it is made with bananas and that does not stop it tasting of beer. And of bananas.

Banana Splits

Banana splits are dead easy, right? Just slice some bananas, top with ice cream, and slather with chocolate sauce and cream. But this is Eurovision night, so I needed to go a bit over the top. Hence this recipe, courtesy of the Hairy Bikers.

Bananas lightly fried in butter and brown sugar. Ice cream, whipped cream and hazelnuts toasted in sugar and butter to top, and a sauce made from chocolate, whipping cream, golden syrup and rum.

The presentation is harder. The bananas tend to break when being fried, and they brown a little, but the taste is so much better.

Gone Bananas – Day 4

Only two days to go now and I can stop eating bananas for a while. Today was a bit intense. Here’s the menu.

Also the usual reminder that I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday. I’m delighted to see that I’m up to 76% of my target, but there’s still a way to go. You can donate here.

Breakfast – Banana Yoghurt

Yoghurt is a regular part of many people’s breakfasts, but I make my own. I have an EasiYo yoghurt maker, which makes the process very simple. Just add water to the packet mix, follow the instructions, and leave overnight. A 1 kg batch lasts me about a week. They have loads of flavours, including banana.

Smoothie – Banana & Orange

You are getting two smoothies today, because this one is very much a breakfast drink. The recipe calls it “Top o’ the morning”. It contains banana, an orange, almond milk, cinnamon and ice. Except that I mis-read the recipe and don’t have an orange to hand so I used orange juice, which makes it rather more liquid.

Lunch – Plantain Chips

One thing I wanted to do this week was feature the banana’s lesser-known cousin, the plantain. However, I couldn’t manage to find any in the local shops, so I’ve had to settle for chips. Sadly, once they have been fried and salted, they don’t taste much different to bananas.

Smoothie – Banana & Mocha

This one has banana, chilled coffee, almond milk, almond butter, cocoa powder, ice and agave nectar. I was disappointed to discover that having agave in it did not involve actual tequila.

I’m not a big fan of iced tea/coffee, but the cocoa powder makes this. Yum.

Dinner – Orange Pecan Shrimp

We’ve done risotto, we’ve done Latin American, we’ve done curry, now it is time for something with an Asian theme to it. There’s a sauce made from orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce and cornflour, plus orange marmalade and ginger. Cook some frozen peas separately (I put them in with the rice part way through). Fry the shrimp until just pink, then reduce the heat, add the sauce, cover and cook for a few minutes. Then add the peas and banana pieces. Serve with rice and toasted chopped pecans.

Cocktail – Banana Daiquiri

Fortuitously today is International Cocktail Day. And it is Friday, so a little alcohol won’t go amiss. The classic banana cocktail is, of course, the banana daiquiri. This is made with ice, banana, rum, an orange liqueur, lime juice and sugar. Mine got made with what I had in the cupboard, which meant Kraken rum (obviously) and Cointreau Blood Orange.

Dessert – Banoffee Pie

The great thing about banoffee pie is that you can make it without cooking. The base is crushed digestive biscuits and melted butter, which needs a few hours in the fridge to set. Then cover the base with caramel, set the banana pieces into it, and cover with whipped double cream. I added some grated chocolate on the top.

It’s not the greatest looking slice in the world, but that was amazing.

Gone Bananas – Day 3

I’m back with another day’s worth of banana-themed food.

As a reminder, I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday. I’m only at 57% of my target, so I would appreciate some donations.

Breakfast – Pancakes with Banana Butter

I promised you something different with the pancakes. There are all sorts of things you can put on them, but browsing recipe sites I found mention of banana butter. I’m not a big fan of peanut butter, but surely it can be improved upon. And perhaps banana and cinnamon are just the tools I need.

So, one banana, 4 tbsps of peanut butter, and cinnamon to takes. Whiz, and stick in the fridge overnight for the flavours to develop.

Reader, my blender did not want to whiz. I guess I should have used more ripe bananas. I ended up adding a little almond milk to loosen things up.

Lunch – Banana & Mango Fruit Bar

Since the pandemic I’ve been paying more attention to the dried fruit section in Tesco because I’ve been shopping less often and don’t want to run out of fruit. This lead me to notice their fruit bars, which are something like Nakd bars. They do one in mango & banana. They also do banana bites in a yoghurt coating. Both are yummy, and very good for packed lunches. Not just for kids either.

Smoothie – Banana, Mango, Pineapple & Spinach

Here I am using up the rest of the mango from last night’s dinner, a banana, and some pineapple chunks, plus water and ice. There is a smoothie recipe in my book. It also suggests WHAT? Yes, spinach. The recipe also suggested Kale, but there are depths of hipsterness that I will not plumb.

It tastes fine, and the spinach gives it a lovely colour.

Dinner – Banana & Coconut Curry

As curries go, this is dead easy. Fry some (red) onion and garlic until brown. Add your favourite curry paste (the recipe recommended using chili, cumin, coriander, cardamon and turmeric) and fry a little more. Add cubed potato and banana chunks. Coat them in the spice mix, then add coconut milk. Cover and simmer until the potato is soft (15-20 mins). I topped it off with some desiccated coconut for effect.

This is cheap, fast and delicious. It is also, I think, vegan. I feel like I’m channelling my inner Jack Munroe here.

Dessert – Banana Fritters

Having made a very easy main course, I decided to experiment with dessert. I had to try banana fritters, right? But I don’t have a deep-far fryer, and my air fryer is not ideal for the job.

The recipe I used recommended chopping the banana and dipping the pieces consecutively into bowls containing flour, whisked egg, and a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and coconut. This quickly gets very messy. Then you fry.

My air fryer slowly moves the food around during cooking. This makes for amazing chips, but for the fritters it tended to shake off the coating.

Ah well, it tasted good, and I added some cream for effect.

Gone Bananas – Day 2

Once again, here’s the full list of today’s banana-themed menu for easy digestion.

As a reminder, I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday. They are a very wonderful charity, and I very much hope that some of you can spare some cash to help me reach my target.

Breakfast – Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are an obvious thing to have with some fruit for breakfast, but while I was gazing at the shelves in Tesco I noticed that they had banana pancakes. Clearly I had to get some. They do taste of banana, but they are a bit bland on their own so I’ll be spicing them up a bit over the week.

Lunch – Banana Chips

Who needs potatoes when you can have bananas? Yes, fried banana chips are a thing, especially in the Caribbean. You can get all sorts of flavours. I should probably have gone for the chili variety, but for today we’re doing good old ready salted.

I’m assuming that they use green bananas because they are less sweet.

Smoothie – Apple and Almond

Something a little off the wall today. This one has a banana, a green apple (peeled), almond butter (tbsp), almond milk (250 ml), and ice. Very different. Not sure I’d recommend this one, but that’s not the fault of the banana.

Dinner – Fried Fish with Mango & Banana Salsa

We’re going a little Latin American tonight. The salsa contains mango, banana, red pepper, red chili, red onion, coriander and lime juice. Maybe a little salt. The recipe was for tilapia, but I couldn’t get one so I’m making do with sea bass and hoping it is from Chile. Dust it with flour and pan fry until done. Serve with lime wedges.

Dessert – Banoffee Ice Cream

I’ll be trying my hand at a proper banoffee pie later in the week. In the meantime, whet your appetites on Ben & Jerry’s Oh My Banoffee Pie ice cream.

Gone Bananas – Day 1

I wasn’t planning on blogging about the Go Bananas! fundraiser, but it turns out that individual updates on the JustGiving site are limited to 550 characters, which will be a pain when I want to get into detail about recipes, so here I am.

As a reminder, I am raising money for One25, by using bananas in all my meals until Sunday, and I would be very grateful if you could chip in a few quid.

So, day 1, and the fundraiser officially started at Noon. What have I been eating?

Lunch – Banana Bread

One of the limitations that I have in this project is that I don’t have a functional oven. I do, however, have a ridiculous collection of kitchen gadgets, including a Tefal Cake Factory. It has a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, so I gave it a try.

There’s not a lot of point giving you a detailed recipe as it will only work with the machine in question. And if you have one, you’ll already have the recipe. I will note that it is made with buckwheat flour, presumably for the slightly nutty taste.

But wait, Cheryl, why are you making bread in a cake machine? Well, because what we call banana bread isn’t really bread. At least not in the recipes I have been looking at. One of the ways in which people distinguish bread and cake is that bread is leavened with yeast, whereas cake uses baking powder. Having said that, my bread machine has a “cake” programme, so I’ll be trying a different banana bread recipe later in the week.

The Cake Factory makes cute little finger cakes as per the photo. And they have chocolate in them, which is a fine start to the week.

Smoothie – Banana & Raspberry

Bananas are a regular feature of smoothies, and now that the weather is improving I’ll be making a lot of them. Yes, of course I have a smoothie maker. Did you have to ask? It is a Nutri Ninja, for those who are interested in such things.

Normally I just throw stuff in and see how the mixture works, and that’s how I’m going to start. Banana, some frozen raspberries, plain yoghurt, and some milk, and perhaps a little honey as the raspberries can be quite tart. Blitz and drink. Yum.

Dinner – Banana Risotto

When I went looking for main course recipes I expected to find curries. I did not expect to find risottos. But Banana Risotto is apparently a thing. The recipe is standard risotto stuff. Fry some onion (or in this case shallots are better) until golden. Add some arborio rice and fry for a few more minutes. Then slowly add liquid while simmering until the rice is soft, which takes about half an hour. The liquid in this case is white wine and vegetable stock.

The recipe I used suggested adding one mashed banana half way through, and one near the end. Also added at the end was grated parmesan, which surprised me a little. Some recipes also suggested peas or mange tout, which I went for because it added much needed colour.

The banana makes the risotto quite sweet, but I was very pleased with how well it worked, especially as I’d been a bit nervous about the parmesan.

Dessert – Foam Bananas & Monkeys

I can remember from when I was much younger, that you could get weird banana-shaped and flavoured sweets. We’ll be going a bit mad with banana desserts later in the week, but for now I’m keeping it simple. Marks & Spencer provided a decent facsimile of my childhood memory. I have no idea why they are called “foam”. Farah suggested on Twitter that is is because they have the consistency of foam cushions, which I find distinctly unappetising. Thankfully the sweets did not taste of that sort of foam.

Going Bananas in May

Regular readers will remember that each May I do something stupid to raise money for the wonderful folks at One25, a Bristol-based charity that helps women so badly down on their luck that they feel they have no option but to go on the street. The challnege this year is to “go bananas”, which is a reference to something lovely that Meghan Markle did when she visited the One25 HQ a few years back.

Most of the folks at One25 are dressing as bananas for a week. It sure gets people’s attention when you are on your way to work. However, I don’t get out much. Once a week to Tesco is usually my limit. So I’m doing something different. I’m going to be cooking and eating bananas for the duration of the fund-raiser, which is May 10-15.

There will be banana splits, banana smoothies, banana yoghurt, banana bread, banana curry, banoffee pie, banana chips and anything else banana based that I can think of. I will try to get bananas into every mealtime. If you have ideas for weird banana-based food that you would like me to try, do let me know. This is supposed to be a challenge, after all.

And of course the whole point is raising money. Which means I’m hoping that some of you folks will donate. You can do so here.